“Sunlight” in The Malahat Review 203 (summer 2018)

Hi all,

The new issue of The Malahat Review showed up in my mailbox just yesterday, and I’m excited to announce that one of my poems, “Sunlight,” is nestled within its pages! I’d like to extend my thanks to the journal’s editors for selecting my piece, and for the care they’ve taken in publishing it.

Although it’s not absolutely explicit in the journal (nor should it be, now that I see the poem in its published context), “Sunlight” is one of many poems that have emerged from my thinking about and caring for the houseplants that have accompanied me through the last several years. I do think, however, that there might be a fair bit more to take from the poem, so I hope that you find your own truth (or opinion) within it if you get the chance to pick up an issue.

In any case, and as always, happy reading!

 

 

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The fourth J: reading at knife | fork | book this Friday

Hi all,

Although there’s been quite a bit going on over at my Instagram, it’s been a while since my last blog post. Nonetheless, I wanted to take a second to say how excited I am to be reading for a second time at knife | fork | book, which has pretty quickly become my favourite poetry venue in Toronto. While my last reading there coincided with the launch of my Anstruther Press Manifesto Series chapbook, this one is owed mostly to an accident of birth: Kirby (k | f | b’s lovely proprietor) had the wonderfully weird idea of booking a sausage party (his words) with four J-named individuals, and I happened to fit the bill. (Although, as James Lindsay pointed out on Twitter, the quartet of himself, Jimmy McInnes, Jim Johnstone, and me is more precisely three Jameses and a John, so perhaps my being there wasn’t predestined after all?)

In any case, I have a great deal of respect for each of my co-readers and the various dimensions of their poetic work, and I’d highly recommend coming out to see them. For my part, I’ll be seizing the opportunity to present a mix of old favourites and new, unpublished poems that I hope will make for a good show overall. And besides all that, knife | fork | book is just about the coziest place you could find yourself in the early hours of a summer Friday night; just remember you’ll be asked to take off your shoes!

The show takes place this Friday, June 15th, with doors opening at 6:30 and poetry beginning at 7:00 (sharp!). Knife | fork | book is located at 244 Augusta Ave. (second floor) in Kensington Market. See you there!

 

 

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Slogan, Substance, Dream: keywords for a responsible poetry at the Anstruther Press Spring Launch

Hi everyone,

It’s been a long winter. I don’t think I’m quite ready to pull myself out of hibernation on my own, but it looks like the forces of the spring launch season are beckoning me into the limelight: this Friday, I’ll be reading from my new manifesto chapbook, Slogan, Substance, Dream: keywords for a responsible poetry, at the Anstruther Press Spring Launch at Jeff Kirby’s much-beloved Kensington Market bookstore, knife fork book. I’ll be launching alongside the venerable authors listed on the poster below, and though I only have a few minutes, I’m looking forward to offering some of my thoughts on the new chapbook and reading from a section or two. Doors open at 6:30pm this Friday, March 9th at knife fork book at Kensington’s Dark Side Studio (244 Augusta Avenue), and the poetry begins at 7:00; check it out on knife fork book’s blog or facebook.

If you’re planning to come, it’s best to keep two things in mind: (1) bring cozy socks, since the shop/studio is a shoeless space; (2) kfb events, at least as far as I understand, start ON TIME!

 

 

Slogan, Substance, Dream is something a little special; rather than a book of poetry or creative fiction, it’s a concise prose manifesto written for Anstruther’s Manifesto Series. The series is edited by Shane Neilson, and Jim Johnstone and Erica Smith also contributed immensely to the chapbook’s execution; I owe them all great thanks for helping me get it out into the world.

Shane first asked me if I’d be interested in writing a manifesto at least two years ago (perhaps even longer), and although I’ve been committed to the project since then, my thoughts and beliefs about poetry and my role in it have transformed many times since I began writing. Several people who have read the final version of Slogan, Substance, Dream have told me that it is very much a poetic text–full-blown poetry, even!–but even as I take their evaluation seriously, I can’t stress enough that it isn’t the case for me. Even at its most abstract and imagistic, the manifesto is my best attempt at honestly expressing what I believe my and others’ poetry should strive for.

The manifesto (like much of my PhD research, which, though distinct, has greatly inspired it) is about responsibility, and part of the process of writing it has involved grappling with the question of whether expressing my “should” (or, indeed, writing anything called a “manifesto”) could ever be a responsible act. In truth, I’m still not sure it is. However, my work on the project has led me to the conclusion that, in order to present myself as a writer at all, I can’t help but strike a balance between acceptance and assessment, absorption and imposition, listening and speaking out. In other words, to respond ethically to the world in an act of creative expression, I also have to be confident enough to expose the person I really am and the thoughts I really think. And if this means that, ostensibly, I sometimes pursue the fantasy of imposing my beliefs on others, I only hope they realize that I’m just one person, that the power I have over them is only that of one person in a world of very many, and that I have no interest in presenting myself as anything else.

One of the ways of summarizing the argument of Slogan, Substance, Dream would be to say that this is all a manifesto–or perhaps any piece of writing–can or should do. With that in mind, there’s nothing left for me but to leave it to its work.

 

 

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The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis: A Selection

 

Hi all,

For the past 16 months, I’ve maintained an Instagram account @selected.works dedicated (mostly) to showcasing pages from my artist’s book The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis: A Selection (which was in fact completed and printed some time earlier). I used the account to highlight and quote from pages of Jacques Lacan’s original The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis that I felt were relevant to my project; in the process, I learned a lot about Lacan, my own creative work, and the world of Instagram (or at least the parts of it I connected with).

Since I’ve reached the end of my volume (though it is, of course, only half the size of Lacan’s), I’ve decided to bring the project to a close, at least for now, and to think about turning @selected.works towards new ends. To mark the occasion, I’ve also decided to make available some additional documentation pertaining to A Selection: specifically, a short artist’s statement I wrote nearly two years ago to collect some of my motivations for and reflections on the project. That statement is copied below. If you’ve been following the project, I hope it’ll provide you with some intriguing background material. And if you’ve never seen A Selection before, I hope this will entice you to dig into the Instagram posts!

 

The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis: A Selection

Artist’s Statement

 

The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis: A Selection is a typographical artwork inspired by appropriation art, conceptual writing, and visual poetry. In its complete form as a 142-page printed book, the project operates as a “selection” of Jacques Lacan’s classic text (first published in English in 1977) in at least two senses: first, as an editorial selection of approximately half the lectures included in the original volume; second, as a graphical erasure of approximately half the ink used in the original publication of the selected sections, a result achieved by typesetting the volume in a font variation (designed by the artist) which renders visible only part of each printed letter. Thus the scope of the project spans, on one end, the editorial and visual reproduction of Hogarth’s original publication of Lacan’s text and, on the other, the development of the “Manque” font variation, which could be applied to any text.

The project’s methods draw inspiration from several sources. Its use of appropriation and material reproduction is inspired by the work of appropriation artists such as Richard Prince, especially his reproduction of Random House’s first edition of The Catcher in the Rye. Conceptual writing’s focus on the materiality of text, the labour of reproduction, and radical mimesis provides additional context for these techniques. Meanwhile, the design of the “Manque” font variation draws inspiration from the processes of erasure poetry as well as the visual styles of asemic writing and non-Latin scripts.

Lacan’s The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psych-analysis emerged as an ideal source text for the project for a variety of reasons; in many ways, in fact, the text seemed to suggest the parameters of the project of its own volition. Superficially, the project mimics the format of Bruce Fink’s first translation of Lacan’s Écrits (also the first work of Lacan’s to be published in English), which included only a selection of Lacan’s original essays and was subtitled as such. The publication history of The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-analysis also offers an excellent case study of the problems of reproduction and translation explored by A Selection. Originally presented by Lacan as an oral seminar, the lectures that constitute The Four Fundamental Concepts were first collected as a printed text (and given their popular title, which was not Lacan’s) under the editorship of Jacques-Alain Miller, who has since been accused of distorting Lacan’s voice and thought. As Alan Sheridan’s translation of the French text puts the 1977 Hogarth publication at yet another level of remove from its supposed origins, the book’s appearance in English carries with it a deep suspicion of the status and value of these origins even before its reproduction in A Selection. That Lacan is often considered fundamental to the line of postmodern thinking obsessed with this suspicion is perhaps no coincidence. Finally, the thematic structure of Lacan’s seminar provided a ripe target for editorial re-imagining: by “selecting” approximately the first half of the book for republication, A Selection redesigns Lacan’s seminar to culminate with his discussions of the image and the gaze, foregrounding his most direct commentaries on the visual effects of the “Manque” font variation. In a sense, the project attempts to prove the relevance of Lacan’s comments on mimicry (as presented on page 99 of the text, the only page rendered in regular type in A Selection) to the relationship between textuality and visuality: concerning the limit beyond which a script ceases to signify and becomes no more than a picture, “It is not a question of harmonizing with the background but, against a mottled background, of becoming mottled—exactly like the technique of camouflage practised in human warfare.”

The name of the font variation “Manque” references Lacan’s famous manque-à-être, a neologism derived from the French word for “to miss” or “to lack” but rendered in English as “want-to-be” by Lacan himself. Alongside its application of manque-à-être to the field of the letter (itself an important agent within the unconscious, according to Lacan’s well-known essay), “Manque” thus also incorporates the problems and history of translating Lacan’s thought into its very identity.

John Nyman
January 7, 2016

 

 

 

 

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The Toronto Zine Off and Epistolary Shapes

Hey all,

I had to post a little bit about the fabulous first (with hopefully more to come) Toronto Zine Off, which I attended last night at The Steady (a well loved venue that will unfortunately be closing at the end of the month–it will be missed!). Organized, in part, by friend and fellow poet JM Francheteau on the model of his Ottawa zine offs, the event was intended as a deadline to create a new zine to trade with fellow zine makers. In short, I took up the challenge, had a blast, and came home with a bunch of zines to thumb through! I’d say the night was quite a success, and I’m looking forward to follow-ups being announced on the new Toronto Zine Off facebook group.

 

Here’s my and Miles Forrester’s zine, Epistolary Shapes, next to some promo copies of Carousel generously provided by Mark Laliberte:

 

And here’s JM’s photo of all the zines he collected last night (my haul was pretty much the same):

 

Epistolary Shapes came out of a collaborative project Miles and I started this past summer, before he moved out to Montreal to study at Concordia. The two of us wrote short poems by responding to each other line by line, ensuring each line fit a pre-established length constraint. Although we had always had the intention of transforming the resulting source texts into visual pieces, it took the zine off to finally push us into realizing our vision: after a marathon bout of editing and visualization (all of the final products were put together over about 24 hours), we came up with eight visual poems for the zine. Here are two:

 

Overall, the past few days have been a pretty exciting way to jump back into zine culture. It’s been a while since I did anything more than gawk at all the tables at Canzine (which I’m not even sure I’ll get to do this year, with IFOA events looming large on my schedule), but last night really reminded me that it’s zine people who make zines such a valuable part of culture. I met and chatted with a lot of fine folks last night, from old friends to new, and I hope to see more of them soon!

 

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Reading at the International Festival of Authors October 21

Hi all,

I’m still pretty hyped from my reading at The Sophisticated Boom Boom last week, but it’s about time now to push forward and look ahead to my next performance, which will in fact be quite different. As a very welcome follow-up to my reading at the International Festival of Authors Poetry NOW competition earlier this year, I’ve been invited to participate in the festival’s main programming next month! I’ll be featured as part of the “Poetic New Worlds” event on Saturday, October 21st alongside an all-star cast of poets, including fellow Poetry NOW performers Dane Swan, Amanda Earl, and David Goldstein, as well as the contest’s winner, Stuart Ross. Honestly, though, there are just too many amazing and deeply respected poets on the program to list…you’ll just have to come out and see them! The event takes place at 4pm on Saturday, October 21st, in Harbourfront Centre’s Studio Theatre (235 Queens Quay West). Tickets are $18 or $15 for IFOA sponsors, and can be purchased here, but admission is free for students and youth! This year’s entire IFOA festival takes place between October 19 and October 29.

I’ve said this before, but being invited to perform on the IFOA stage is a huge honour. It should be obvious that this is a BIG festival with BIG names, and among other things it’ll probably have the biggest audience I’ve ever performed for. In addition, I’ll easily be the least experienced poet on stage at “Poetic New Worlds.” Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to helping put on a great show, and to getting a chance to share my approach to poetry with a new set of engaged listeners and readers.

 

 

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Reading at the Sophisticated Boom Boom Wednesday night

Howdy all,

I’ve been bustling around these past few weeks preparing for another school year of full-time dissertating and part-time pseudo-academic labour, but luckily I’m not too busy to read at The Sophisticated Boom Boom‘s 43rd edition this coming Wednesday! By my reckoning, the Boom Boom is a pretty much irreplaceable part of Toronto’s literary scene: a little off the beaten trail of mainstream series, Nick McKinlay and EA Douglas have managed to attract a community of dedicated, envelope-pushing, and mostly emerging poets and weirdos to populate one of the city’s more vibrant open mics. And on top of all that, it’s a late (like, late late) show at the dank back room of The Ossington in the heart of one of the city’s artsiest districts. What’s not to love? Although the series has been on hiatus for the summer months, I’m looking forward to a great crowd for their return show. If you’re thinking of swinging by, it’s 9pm this Wednesday, September 13 at The Ossington (61 Ossington Ave.), and you can check out the facebook event page here.

Along with the aforementioned open mic, I’ll be featuring alongside Inez Genereux. If Inez’s bio on the event’s facebook page is any indication (although there are also other indications), our performances and personas may end up gravitating towards opposite poles of what you might expect from poetry at the Boom Boom. But as far as I’m concerned, that’ll only make the evening more delicious. And besides, since I’ve been psyching myself up to read some very new work this Wednesday (I didn’t think another set from Players would be up to snuff for the Boom Boom audience), who knows what kind of vibe we’ll end up with? The point, of course, is to come find out.

 

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Review of Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s “Rubber Coated Steel” on Peripheral Review

Hi all,

I have a short update, only tangentially related to my poetry and other writing on literature but (hopefully!) of interest to some of the same audiences. I’m very happy to announce that my review of Lawrence Abu Hamdan‘s short film, “Rubber Coated Steel,” just went up on the Peripheral Review website earlier this week–and it looks great! Alongside the text itself, the publication also features an excellent still (courtesy of the Images Festival, where I saw the film, for the second time, in Toronto) which really captures what the film’s about…so I’ve included it here, too. If you’re interested, you can check out the full review, titled “Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Many Silences,” here.

Abu Hamdan’s film recounts the trial of Israeli border police officer Ben Deri, caught on camera shooting four unarmed Palestinian protesters on Nakba Day (May 15), 2014. Rather than restaging the trial or representing it through standard documentary film making, the film only shows us the text of the court transcript (which is presented as a series of subtitles) and some pieces of visual evidence, which take the place of targets in an underground shooting range. I knew I wanted to write about the film since I first saw it at the Beirut Art Centre in Lebanon last summer, especially since its themes of silence, noise, and erasure (as in the parts of the court transcript that are struck out, having been removed from the official record) intersect substantially with my doctoral research. In short, I couldn’t be happier that my thoughts made their way to Peripheral Review, and I’m very thankful to Lauren Lavery for her enthusiasm and support. Between this review and my Instagram residency last month, I’ve had a great time with the publication.

Like many art films, it might be difficult to catch a viewing of “Rubber Coated Steel,” although you can always check out the trailer while you’re waiting for it to be screened again in Toronto (or wherever else you happen to be!). I hope I did a fair job illustrating the film’s content in my review; even if you haven’t seen it, though, I think I’ve managed to articulate a few ideas worth wrapping your head around.

Happy reading!

 

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Reading at The Art Bar on August 1

Hi all!

Things have been pretty quiet this month since the amazing time I had doing my Peripheral Review Instagram Residency. (And by quiet, I mean I’ve been writing lots and trying not to talk so much.) I do have one announcement: On Tuesday, August 1, I’ll be reading at the recent reboot of Toronto’s much beloved, longest running weekly poetry reading series, The Art Bar!

I’ve spoken about The Art Bar a few times before…I’ve attended the series for many years and through various venues, and I pretty much cut my teeth on their open mic. I’ve also been featured at the series a few times already (maybe three, by now?) and always had a blast; I find the series tends to attract a mix of die-hard regulars, well established members of Canada’s poetry community (two of which, Pier Giorgio Di Cicco and Mike Burrs, I’ll be reading with two Tuesdays from now), and curious newbies. This time around, I owe some heartfelt thanks to friend, mentor, and dedicated literary organizer Rob Welch for setting everything up.

If you’re interested in checking out the scene and/or seeing me read, I’d love to see you at the show! Also, you can now (apparently) win $20 at the open mic, if you sign up a few days in advance and best the competition on some relatively unorthodox scoring metrics (which you can find more details about here)…so, I guess that’s cool? Anyway, the reading takes place Tuesday, August 1 at the Free Times Cafe (320 College Street), starting at 8pm, with a cover charge of $5. You can also take a look at the event’s facebook page for more info. Hope to see you there!

 

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Peripheral Review Instagram residency, June 26 – July 1

Hi all,

I’d like to take a moment to announce something I’m pretty excited about this week: Lauren Lavery (artist, art critic, editor, &, collective poet, exemplary human) has been kind enough to invite me to do an Instagram residency with Peripheral Review, which means I’ll be stocking the publication’s Instagram feed with whatever I desire for the next six days. I feel especially honoured to be invited, since Peripheral Review‘s network runs mostly through the visual arts, and most of the folks who have done the residency are legit artists. So, I’ve chosen to take the invitation as a kind of provocation, to see how and how well the work I’ve done with visual and experimental poetry fits in the art world. I’ll be bringing my best (including new works in progress, some old projects, and other relevant things I stumble across during the week), so you should definitely give the Peripheral Review Instagram a follow and stay tuned for more of my posts!

 

 

I should point out that Peripheral Review itself is a pretty awesome endeavour, existing mostly online but also in a (beautiful) print anthology that recently made its way to the Vancouver Photo Book Fair. The publication includes reviews of art exhibitions and other art events with a special focus on creative approaches to criticism; they even encourage ‘reviewers’ to respond to artwork with their own artwork, including poetry, sound, and visual forms. It’s a great place to check out if you’re looking for some innovative and in-depth engagements with the Canadian art scene.

 

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